Freeport council rejects panel to guide Active Living Plan

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

FREEPORT — The Town Council on Tuesday decided not to establish an Active Living Advisory Committee.

Councilors amended a motion that would have created a committee to carry out the work of a task force that created the Freeport Active Living Plan. They voted 6-1, with Councilor Andrew Wellen opposed, to instead supplement the task force’s original 2012 charge.

Councilor Melanie Sachs offered the amendment, which says the task force’s role is “to monitor and to act as an additional resource of information to the town and its citizens for the initiatives outlined in the accepted Active Living Plan until June 15, 2015.”

The original motion would have created a committee “to carry out the terms of the Active Living Plan.” The committee would have consisted of resident from each of the town’s four districts, as well as residents with interests in local trails, the school system, bicycle and pedestrian initiatives, and public safety. It also called for a town staff liaison. Each position would have been for a three-year term.

Most councilors said it wasn’t the right time to form a committee, or that it wasn’t necessary.

“I’m not saying I’m against the committee, but I think it’s a little premature,” Chairman Jim Hendricks said. “I do like the idea of continuing with the task force doing what they’ve been doing.”

Wellen said a committee would duplicate existing town functions, and “could potentially serve as an advocacy group within town government.”

Councilor Scott Gleeson said he agreed with Wellen that this type of committee would be “uncommon.” However, he said he wants the group to continue its work.

“I want (the task force) to still have a way to communicate,” Gleeson said. “I feel uncomfortable appointing a committee at this time.”

Sachs said she wasn’t ready to create a committee because the task force still needs to make plans for Freeport’s open space. The Active Living Plan calls for open areas to be used for outdoor recreational space, but Sachs said more planning needs to be done.

“I’m not necessarily in favor of establishing an active living advisory committee right now because we need to flush out more ideas to manage open space,” she said.

Sachs said there needs to be “a broader conversation about open space management.” 

Anne-Marie Davee, chairwoman of the Active Living Task Force, said she understood what Sachs meant.

“I will confirm with Melanie that there is a need for a larger, greater picture with a plan,” Davee said. 

Other members of the public spoke of the good the active living plan could do for the town. Some said they were worried council would forget about the plan if a committee isn’t formed.

Councilor Sarah Tracy spoke to these concerns.

“I think it makes sense to extend the mission of the Active Living Plan,” she said. “We spent taxpayers’ money on this and it’d be a shame for it to gather dust.”

Tracy said a committee should be formed eventually, but that it would need more structure than the one proposed. She said having residents do all the work “seems naive.”

“There needs to be a body responsible for making sure this document stays alive,” Tracy said.

Hendricks suggested that if a committee were  formed, it could be part of a larger committee, such as a Parks and Recreation committee. Councilor Rich DeGrandpre also said he thinks it’s “critical” that the task force continue its work.

The Active Living Plan was accepted by the council in July. Since then, the task force has received two grants that Davee said can hopefully be used as the plan is put into motion.

The National Park Service has awarded the group a technical assistance grant and the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System will provide Freeport with bicycle racks and bicycle lane markings.

After the meeting, Davee said she was satisfied with the outcome, even though it wasn’t what she had hoped for. 

“I think it enables us to continue with the momentum we have,” she said. 

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.